Fairview’sreferral dip might cost U

by Bei Hu

University Hospital would share the effects of a decline in inpatient admissions at Fairview Riverside Medical Center if a merger between the two hospitals is finalized as planned.
HealthPartners, one of Minnesota’s largest managed care organizations, announced Monday that some of its clinics will make significantly fewer referrals to Fairview Riverside by Jan. 1, 1997.
Nancy McClure, HealthPartners vice president for Specialty and Institution Contracting, said the group has signed agreements to refer patients to Methodist Hospital Health System Minnesota and North Memorial Medical Center. Six HealthPartners’ clinics that referred most of their patients to Fairview Riverside in the past will now shift at least half of those admissions to the two west metro facilities.
HealthPartners’ sudden pullout is expected to cut in half the number of patients it refers to Fairview Riverside.
HealthPartners’ patients accounted for 39 percent of Fairview Riverside’s 28,000 inpatient admissions last year. These referrals translated into about one quarter of the medical center’s $173.5 million net patient revenue.
HealthPartners’ decision will not directly reduce patient admissions at University Hospital. But one of the reasons University officials have said they are planning a merger between the University Hospital and Fairview Health System is because the availability of Fairview patients could help stabilize the University’s patient base for education and research purposes.
University officials, however, have said HealthPartners’ new agreements are not discouraging and they will continue merger planning.
McClure dismissed widespread speculations attributing HealthPartners’s decision to dissatisfaction with the proposed merger.
Instead, she said the decision resulted from years of market research, which has intensified in recent months as HealthPartners’ 10-year contract with Fairview Riverside is nearing an end. This research included evaluations on hospitals’ health care quality and data on patient preference.
Five major hospital systems competed for partnerships with HealthPartners. Fairview Health System and University Hospital jointly submitted a proposal.
In a HealthPartners’ news release, Mary Brainerd, executive vice president of its Care Delivery Systems, said another factor in choosing hospital systems was location. “We’re creating a hospital network with a focus on hospitals conveniently located in the communities of our clinics.”
The change will involve HealthPartners-owned clinics in Bloomington, Minnetonka and St. Louis Park. But it will also include a clinic next to Fairview Riverside in Minneapolis.
HealthPartners’ new agreements with the two west metro hospitals will not completely sever its ties with Fairview or the University.
McClure said HealthPartners will continue to use Fairview Riverside’s obstetrical, neonatal, mental health and chemical dependency treatment programs. In addition, the Bloomington-based group will still refer patients to University Hospital “for transplants and other highly specialized procedures,” she added.
HealthPartners’ Apple Valley clinic will be left untouched by the new agreements and will continue to refer patients to Fairview Ridges Hospital.